Wednesday, May 17, 2006

Inviting A Quiet Mind

The benefit of being surrounded by minds of exceptional quality is that one is forced to keep up with the pace. This past trip home to Pittsburgh reopened tunnels and passageways I had forgotten in only the span of a year. And while I miss my eclectic, exceptional and often eccentric gaggle of friends - I find myself warmed by their continued presence in my life. The ease with which we all returned to sharing space showed me that distance is not about physical limitations. Perceiving distance in this manner confines intimacy to the corporeal world.

What the hell am I talking about?

I think I’m trying to say that over the course of this year - I have been over-focused on the lack of physical contact with like-minded people. Rather than celebrate their spiritual and emotional presence in my life, I dwelled upon the physical distance. I was allowing myself to observe and mourn the body. My definition of physical absence prevented me from embracing the truth of these relationships. These relationships exist outside of the body - they reside in the mind and the soul.

When I teach - I often find myself saying again and again - “You control the words. The words don’t control you.” An exercise I give early in the term invites my students to understand the power of words and use them to change the way in which they think about writing. I ask everyone to transform a negative statement they think about their writing into a positive statement. “I only write rubbish,” can become, “The words I’m writing now are the compost necessary to feed future great works.”

But - was I practising what I preached? Sometimes. But - certainly - not often enough.

So, I’ve challenged myself not to complain for a month. Instead, I shall try my best to offer myself either tangible solutions or try observe a situation from all angles. I’ll also try to reframe negative attitudes into a postive affirmation. I’m also going to attempt to reserve judgement about what the universe is serving until it has been fully digested.

I have a number of friends to thank for this insight. Two examples jump to mind.

One night, my friend Lawrence and I shared a taste of 12 year old single malt Scotch. We were talking about my imminent return to England. Lawrence slips easily into pastor mode, it is one of the things I adore about him. (Real men of God don’t just become holy on the pulpit - it’s just part of who they are...all of the time.) We sat quietly for a moment, then he looked up and said, “You, know, there is something good waiting for you in England. You just have to be open to it.” That fit well.

I also had some good conversations with my friend Karen. Her husband is up for an exciting new position in a new city. I’d be frantic, planning, making lists and attempting to force the universe to take my desired shape. Not Karen, she said something like, “We’re just staying open. We know what we want from our lives and what we hope will happen. Looking at all of options makes it clear to us what we already have. We’re not making any decisions. “ I found this exceptionally powerful.

Both were discussing that in-between place where magic happens. They were talking about the way in which spirit / faith/ trust are fluid, energised, changing, unconfined. And that there is power in remaining open, flexible and in tune with nature’s most basic principle - everything is always changing. You can resist. You can insist on a shape. You can struggle to hold it. Or you can accept and observe each and every one of the wonderous transformation occuring all around you.

What would the world be like if we insisted that a flower bud on the verge of opening stay forever in that one particular pose?

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